Thursday, December 18, 2014

An Afternoon Exploring a Career in 3D Design


Earlier this month we had the privilege of hosting 17-year-old Josh Vickery through a community-based job sampling at our corporate offices in Lansdale, PA.

Vickery, a student at Commonwealth Connections Academy cyber school, met with myself and members of our art team, Jim Seaver and Sara Christy, to discuss a career in 3D game design and development. We spent some time showing him what it's like to be a 3D artist/designer and gave him an opportunity to get a hands on experience with ProtoSphere.

The afternoon was part of a career exploration program run by All About Abilities, a company which serves youth with special needs throughout Bucks County, PA.

Vickery, who is autistic, wants to be a game developer. He’s built one game so far, his own version of Pong, and wants to enter the workforce in a career of his interest.

Mike Kelly, who runs All About Abilities, said the job exploration program is about "fighting the stereotype that those with special needs should be bagging groceries or sorting utensils." An advocate for individuals with special needs, Kelly believes they can do so much more.

We here at ProtonMedia all want to wish Josh the best of luck.

Joshua Vickery (2nd from right) at the ProtonMedia offices

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Microsoft Rebrands Lync as Skype for Business



Microsoft made some headlines yesterday by taking the covers off of a somewhat anticipated move that was started a few years ago when they first acquired Skype. Microsft Lync will now come to be known as Skype for Business.

The new versions of the Skype for Business client, Skype for Business on-premises server and Skype for Business online service that is part of Office 365 will become available in the first half of 2015.

Microsoft is bringing together the best of Skype and Lync without losing any of the features, security and manageability that customers care about. In fact, API elements built into the platform that allow developers like ourselves to build apps and additional functionality on top of Skype for Business are remaining in tact. 

Microsoft is predicting that the familiar user experience that hundreds of millions of Skype users engage with every month will bolster the further adoption of unified communications within the enterprise market. 

According to some photos appearing on their blog post, along with the rebranding of the name, Microsoft is changing the user interface elements of the older Lync client software so that it looks more like Skype. Although pretty, this won't really affect ProtoSphere 4.0 users next year, as our new version will be relying on the UC Web APIs that are completely under the hood.


The updated Lync client UI now has the look of Skype

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

ProtoSphere for Virtual Instructor Led Training


ProtoSphere for Virtual Instructor Led Training (VILT)

When talking to people about our 3D virtual environment, we're often asked, "What are your other customers using it for?" This isn't a question you would normally get when for example you were providing a CRM platform. That has a very specific purpose and for the most part customers know exactly what they are looking for. That being said, it's an understandable question in our arena.  Even though massively multiplayer online (MMO) games and environments have been mainstream within the consumer space for quite some time, the idea around using them for business purposes has not been fully realized.

Many of our customers using ProtoSphere today are indeed “early adopters”.  We are seeing these organizations staying at the forefront of technology and they are truly improving their business processes.  Ultimately, 3D environments have become an addition to their arsenal of tools to help manage projects, streamline a process, or disseminate information. And although the use cases have varied over the years, by far, the most common use we see for our platform is with virtual instructor led training (VILT).

The training and learning needs of large organizations are varied.  The importance of bringing geographically dispersed subject matter experts together with remote learners is a hurdle that needs to be crossed. Sure, there are plenty of traditional web conferencing tools that are out there on the market today; things like WebEx, Adobe Connect, or even GoToMeeting all have their place and include variations that are specific to training needs. But what happens when you want to deliver training with more than just a PowerPoint? What happens when your training sessions are more than an hour long? Learners need ways to remain engaged, and trainers need methods and tools to keep them all motivated.  ProtoSphere has features like private voice zones, the ability to walk around persistent rooms, and multiple screens for interacting with content - all of which help trainers achieve this goal!!

Obviously, as the author of this article, and ProtonMedia's self-proclaimed evangelist for ProtoSphere, I'm a little biased - But I'm also a lifelong learner. I absolutely love to learn new things, especially from other people. As a learner, I want to remain engaged! I want to take a hands on approach, participate actively and learn in interactive ways.  I need the freedom to be able to do all of that in a safe environment. Our customers who are using ProtoSphere for their virtual instructor led training are taking advantage of technology that was born from the first-person shooters that originated in the early 90's. Technology that was inherently designed to grab your attention, make you focus on a task, and navigate your avatar through the interaction of a fantastical virtual world (and maybe kill some zombies, monsters, and other assorted bad guys along the way).

So are we building games for business? Well no, not really, but we are applying that same technology to a legitimate set of business needs and finding it successful, especially for training and learning.

In upcoming posts, I will go into a bit more detail on what some of these training engagements look like, the kinds of topics that are being discussed, and the techniques being employed in the virtual environment for those instructor led sessions.

Monday, November 3, 2014

2014 ATD 8th Annual Technology Showcase!


We're headed to Princeton on Thursday, November 6th, for the ATD Mid New Jersey Chapter's 8th Annual Technology Showcase. We'll be one of about a dozen vendors that are taking part in the evening's event, which includes a great line-up of thought leaders from the learning industry:

  • Dr. Marc Rosenberg
    Rosenberg is an internationally known expert in the world of training, organizational learning, eLearning, knowledge management and performance improvement.
  • David Kelly
    CPLP, CRP, Program Director at the ELearning Guild.
  • Dr. Phil Cowcill
    Coordinator of Multimedia Adver-tising Marketing Communications at Canadore College
  • Michiel Klønhammer
    Founder, LearningStone, the new E-Learning-Guild Acade-my platform.

The topic of the keynote session will be "Building an E-Learning Strategy for the Future: Ten Key Shifts to Watch." Session participants will get suggestions for incorporating these new initiatives into their evolving strategy with the least amount of organizational pain.

If you plan on attending, stop by our table and say hi. We'll have ProtoSphere up and running on a couple laptops to give visitors a firsthand look at the experience.

The event is being held at the Westin Hotel in the Forrestal Center, Princeton, NJ. Doors open at 4pm.

You can get more information and register for the event on the chapter's website. The full brochure is also available here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

ProtoSphere Cost Savings for Hospital Executives Traveling Between Sites

Having executives travel from one hospital site to another is costing you time and money.

Based on the average annual salary of executives, one hour of wasted travel time costs a typical hospital $120 per individual. As you can see below, the cost of 30 executives meeting in ProtoSphere remains constant for the year, while the cost of traveling increases.

The chart below also reflects on the amount of time that can be saved from having to travel from site to site while sitting in cabs or waiting in lines for mass transit.

Hospital Cost Savings Using ProtoSphere for Virtual Meetings

Experience the savings for yourself... Call us at 1-866-871-0997 or send an email to protoninfo@protonmedia.com.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Top unified communications vendors eye virtual reality in the conference room - via networkworld.com



Maria Korolov has posted an article over at networkworld.com on how some of the leading leading unified communications vendors, including ourselves, are taking a hard look at the opportunities for 'virtual reality in the conference room.'

The Oculus Rift is a game changer when it comes to bringing people into a more immersive experience - in fact, some large organizations like Ford Motor Company have already been using it.

Maria's article goes on to talk about how virtual environment platforms like ProtoSphere, AvayaLive Engage, and Terf are experimenting with the technology with specific business use cases in mind.

Continue here to read the full article as it appears on networkworld.com.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Innovation Through Collaboration in the Manufacturing & Life Sciences Industries


Over at onwindows.com, author Sean Dudley re-posted an article earlier this week on how Microsoft and its partners are helping companies improve real time enterprise collaboration in an effort to boost innovation.

He quotes the August issue of Prime magazine, where Egbert Schröer, worldwide managing director of process manufacturing and resources at Microsoft, talks about how "collaboration can be used as part of the innovation process within companies." Schröer goes on to talk about examples of social computing and how companies are continuing to invest in new collaboration technologies to help advance their workforce and find new ways of harnessing the best and brightest ideas.

The article also mentions the role that virtual worlds are playing, with the example given by Andrea McGonigle, managing director of Life Sciences at Microsoft, on the work that we've done with PPD. In the article she comments, "I think virtual worlds will continue to make collaboration advances and really enhance the experience at another level. These spaces will be powered by the cloud that will allow people to access them anywhere, anytime, and scale up and down quickly."

You can head over to onwindows.com to read the full article and download the rest of the August issue.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Sneak Peek at the New Look of ProtoSphere - Part 2


In this second video of our ongoing series of sneak peeks at the next version of ProtoSphere, I wanted to show the ability to import custom 3D art assets into the virtual environment. The new game engine, combined with the platform's real time abilities to see and experience content together, is going to make it very easy for customers to bring in their own 3D content into ProtoSphere. While looking over the shoulder of Jim Seaver, our Art Director, we see him demonstrating that process with some medical devices...


Friday, August 22, 2014

User Adoption Strategies - Six Actions to Consider for a Successful ProtoSphere Rollout


Virtual collaboration tools have become commonplace within the the enterprise market and widespread adoption of these platforms are already in place. But 3D virtual worlds designed for business are still something that many customers have to create a compelling enough business case for, and even once that's done, there's still the question of how to implement a user adoption strategy.

We understand that it's not just enough to provide our customers with an innovative and immersive 3D user experience in ProtoSphere, but to make sure that we also give you the right tools to get your community of users in there and using it on a regular basis. Whether your sales trainers are going to be delivering content to learners, or your project managers are hosting their Six Sigma process improvement meetings, user adoption starts with early planning; identifying product champions, partnering with marketing/communications, making sure there is executive sponsorship - these are all aspects of a rock solid technology adoption strategy.

I've documented below an initial recommended approach for our customers looking to deploy ProtoSphere within their organization. Of course, these are just suggestions... but implementing even small portions of each of them can have a significant impact on the success of your rollout.

1. Secure Executive Sponsorship
Organizations with executives who actively communicate the value and benefit of ProtoSphere are more likely to be successful with their rollout. These individuals lead by example and provide a top-down incentive that lends credibility to your deployment effort. Deliberate outreach to leaders of various business units is one way of securing this type of sponsorship – consider giving them in-person demonstrations so that can see the value propositions first-hand.

2. Form a Deployment and Support Team
Overall success of a ProtoSphere deployment can be measured by the presence of a dedicated team of individuals.  These are people who can assist with project management, IT representation, help desk support, training delivery, and perhaps most importantly, marketing communications.

3. Outline Specific Success Criteria and Goals
Here you will focus on enabling users for certain tasks and defining a core set of specific business cases, such as conducting a training session, or facilitating a large event or meeting. Keeping your objectives simple and achievable will yield the best results and build confidence in the new technology. Success metrics should include factors such as user satisfaction, technology reliability, and speed of adoption.

4. Conduct a Pilot
Planned pilots can help provide new users with early access to ProtoSphere and serve to give a perspective on how people will actually use the technology. Pilots may also uncover potential use cases that were not originally considered or thought of. Successful pilots may also serve as the foundation for stories that 2nd wave adopters find value in.

5. Drive Awareness With an Internal Marketing Campaign 
One of the most important aspects of a successful ProtoSphere rollout is to create a marketing strategy that helps to inform and enlighten your audience. This may include any number and combination of techniques such as:

• Emailing out announcements of the availability of the technology
• Sharing exemplary stories
• Hosting Lunch & Learns
• Setting up a ProtoSphere intranet page with resources such as user guides, best practices, tips and tricks
• Developing video vignettes of real life scenarios

A good campaign will also employ the use of Product Champions – people who are already enthusiastic early adopters and have agreed to provide informal training and support to others in your organization. These people may be called upon to do quick demonstrations, participate in events and seminars, or provide video testimonials.

6. Implement a Training Program
The successful adoption of any technology weighs heavily on users’ ability to understand how to use it. Training can be delivered in any number of formats including user guides and help documents, how-to videos, and in-world sessions. Delivered learning content may sometimes be tailored to the individual and use case, but should always be followed up with actual use of the technology.

One method employed by some customers is to have all users attend a 30 minute briefing/training in-world before attendance at a scheduled activity.  This time can be used to sort out installation issues, provide basic skills and etiquette, and familiarize users with the experience (personalize  avatars, etc.).

Six actions to take for a successful user adoption


Monday, August 11, 2014

Five Ways to Increase Learner Engagement


One of the biggest hurdles we all have as trainers when delivering virtual instructor led training is how to keep our learners engaged. It's all too easy to be distracted by our in-boxes, phone calls, and IMs while on the receiving end of a training session when we're seated behind a laptop screen. As instructors, it's our responsibility not only to deliver content, but to make sure that knowledge is retained. And what better way to increase knowledge retention than to increase engagement levels...

Here are 5 things you can try in your next training session to help your learners become more engaged.

Ask your learners for a summation

Did you just spend the past 15 minutes discussing a particular topic? Instead of you summarizing that topic before moving on, ask if someone from the audience can summarize it for you. In some ways this can facilitate peer teaching and can be even more impactful in longer training engagements where you've just come back from a break... Ask an individual to summarize or recap what was discussed before the break.

Survey your audience with an actionable response

Using the tools that are available to you in the platform you're delivering the training in, pause for a moment and ask for feedback: 'Raise your hand if you agree with me that...' or 'Type Yes into the messaging area if you have encountered this in the past...' or 'Click the green response button if you think such and such'.

Keep people on their toes and randomly ask for feedback

Are you asking a question or trying to get some input from the class? Instead of generally asking your audience, ask someone specifically. Most all of the learning platforms out there today have the ability to display the names of your learners present with you. Use that to your advantage and call on people directly. Referring to people by their name will also help keep your training engagement a bit less formal.

Try a Viewpoint Round

Assuming this activity is appropriate for a given a topic, provide each learner with an opportunity to spend 2-3 minutes to express their perspective on that topic, while the rest of the class listens. You can use this method of participation to get a range of viewpoints, but don't force the entire roster to do this - let folks pass their turn if they choose to.

Allow for a rabbit hole every once in a while

As trainers we're taught to keep our learners on topic as much as possible. But telling stories can sometimes be just as memorable. The next time someone asks a question that might not be 'on topic', don't be so quick to dismiss it. Allow for that conversation to take place and see where it goes... You might be surprised to see how relevant it really is.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

'Lync Has a 3D Virtual Environment Secret Weapon' Article from Aragon Research


Jim Lundy, founder and CEO of Aragon Research, is a well respected analyst who has covered the collaboration industry for quite a number of years. He has written about and advised on all aspects of the space, including 3D, so we were delighted when he blogged about us earlier this month on his site.

Here's a snippet from the post:

ProtonMedia has evolved over the years with more enterprise deployments featuring its flagship offering Protosphere. Ron Burns, the Founder and CEO, is still at the helm of ProtonMedia. His move to partner with Microsoft Lync is timely and it will help both ProtonMedia and Microsoft.
3D Virtual Environments have lots of use cases, particularly in the Enterprise. Microsoft has not made a big deal out of this, but as enterprises seek to justify continuing investment in Lync, ProtonMedia could be a difference maker.
We see the demand for 3D Virtual Environments going up, partially due to the fact that we see Facebook, Google, and Microsoft starting to promote the concept, even though others, such as IBM, were involved with this concept early. For now, Microsoft gets special treatment from ProtonMedia. We expect to see more integrations as enterprises start to realize that collaboration can be interactive and engaging.

You can read the entire article over at the Aragon Research blog.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Sneak Peek at the New Look of ProtoSphere

Our development team has been hard at work on the next generation of ProtoSphere and has been making really nice progress on it these past few months. Last week I spent some time with Jim Seaver, ProtonMedia's Art Director, getting a look at the upcoming version and capturing the video below.

He gave me a tour of the environment, the new interface, and some of the beautiful spaces being created with the improved dynamic lighting, shadows, and normal mapping that the game engine is capable of. I even got a sneak peek at the 3D object management tools that will be providing customers a lot more flexibility to create custom spaces and artwork in ProtoSphere.


Monday, May 19, 2014

CBS News Features New Milford High School Students Using ProtoSphere


The students and teachers at New Milford High School in New Jersey were featured in a story on Friday by CBS News about how they are using ProtoSphere to learn in a whole new way.

For the past few months we've had the pleasure of working with Laura Fleming, the Library Media Specialist there, who has helped bring 3D learning into the school. She's partnered up with a number of teachers to pilot the software with their students and gauge its effectiveness in providing a learning platform that's engaging, interactive, and dare I say… fun!

The students have been learning about a variety of subjects from Art History to Chemistry and everything in between. The video shows them working together in class, helping each other understand certain topics, and how even the teachers can get in on the action. You can hit this link to the article and watch the video on CBS' site.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Top Ten Rules of Etiquette for Virtual Collaboration... And One Extra for Good Measure


Just like any other social situation, there are certain "rules" of etiquette for interacting with other people in a virtual environment such as ProtoSphere. In talking to our customers, I've found that they've come up with a few of there own, and the list below is a collection of some of those best practices. Some of them are specific to ProtoSphere, but many would apply to any virtual collaboration tool.

  1. Just as you would in real life, turn your avatar toward the person who is speaking, or to whom you are speaking.

  2. Respect others’ personal space. You wouldn't walk up to your colleague in real life and stand only a fraction of an inch in front of him while talking would you? In ProtoSphere, people have a sense of personal space… respect the space of others and don't get too close or step on their toes. It helps to keep yourself in 3rd person view so you can see how close you are to others.

  3. Business appropriate language should be used in group conversations.

  4. Please refrain from spamming the group conversation window with text that isn't relevant to the conversation.

  5. Avoid using all capital letters when sending text messages back and forth - it's usually perceived as "yelling".

  6. Mute your microphone. This is a big one folks… Lync audio is very sensitive and any background noise (dogs barking at home, very loud typing) can be distracting to other participants in your events.

  7. When others teleport into your location, wait a few extra seconds before you start speaking. Their avatar will often appear in the space before they connect to the audio conference and you don't want them to catch you mid-sentence.

  8. During a presentation, only the presenters should advance the slides.

  9. While in a meeting, keep an eye on your Avatar to make sure it is not randomly standing, pointing the laser, or turned the wrong way in a chair while zoomed in on a board – (this is usually caused by an inadvertent tap on your keyboard).

  10. Instructors should use the remote control feature as often as possible, instead of facing away from the participants to look up at the screen. Seeing the instructor’s face is a better, and more realistic experience.

  11. If you have to step away for a few minutes or take another call, so the Instructors or Administrators do not call on you during a class inadvertently, move to the back of the room or other designated that has been established as an “Away” area. It is also helpful to change your Lync status to “Away”.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Conferencing Featured Article on TMCnet

A couple of weeks ago while at the Enterprise Connect conference, our CEO Ron Burns met up with TMCnet's Content Director Rachel Ramsey to discuss some of the things we're doing with ProtoSphere and how our 3D virtual environment can have a positive impact on collaboration and learning needs.

Here's an excerpt from the article she wrote:

Virtual environments are not new, but they are definitely growing. Virtual events, for example, have started to integrate with traditional conferences, tradeshows and networking opportunities. They reduce costs, allow attendees to target messaging and communications and offer real-time access to content. Eighty-seven percent of marketers predict by 2016 events will be half virtual and half face-to-face, which can be a great thing for those face-to-face events – 82 percent of online attendees think virtual events are helpful in decisions to attending events in person.

But virtual environments go beyond events. There are also solutions and applications out there for enterprise communication and collaboration, and that’s what ProtonMedia provides. Its ProtoSphere solution is a 3D virtual workspace designed for enterprises and employees to efficiently collaborate, learn and be productive. It integrates Microsoft Lync and SharePoint to maximize the efficiency and features.
Jump over to TMCnet to read the full article.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

On our way to Enterprise Connect 2014



In less than a week we'll be in Orlando at this year's Enterprise Connect, the show billed as the leading conference and exposition on enterprise communications and collaboration. A press release for the conference was put out yesterday and has an impressive list of 50 new products and services being launched from the event.

This will mark the third year we've exhibited there and we're very excited to be talking to customers about how a 3D virtual environment can have a positive impact on their collaboration and learning needs.

Our team will be hosting ProtoSphere demonstrations at Booth #1900 and showing some of the latest features and benefits of the platform, including some new stuff on the way.

If you're planning on going down, make sure you stop by the booth for your chance to win a Dell Venue 8 Pro. We'll be selecting one lucky winner after the show!

Also, it's not too late to register and attend. You can use our custom discount code XYECG130 to save up to $500 on the Entire Event, Tues-Thurs passes, or even register for a free expo pass.

We're looking forward to seeing you in Orlando!
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